Kerala celebrated Thiruvathira on 31st December 2009. Thiruvathira falls in the month of Dhanu (fifth month of the Malayalam Calendar-Kolla Varsham) which corresponds to the month of December-January. The chilling breeze, moonlit night, scented midnight flowers and the cosmic romance makes the day a special one. Women, in group, celebrate this festival with a passion for love and spirituality.
Legends of Love:
The origin of this festival of love is obscure.
Popularly, it is the birthday of Lord Shiva.
Lord Shiva merged all nine powers into him before initiation of creation, on this day.
It is also a day celebrated in reminiscence of the union of Lord Shiva and Sree Parvathi, after a long penance. Therefore, it is the holy day of marriage of God Shiva and Goddess Parvathi.
Some consider it as the day when Kamadeva, the mythological God of sex and love was reborn. He burnt to ashes in the fatal flames of ire from the third eye of Lord Siva. The Lord pardoned him, on request of Sree Parvati and Rathidevi, later.
Another legend associated with this festival is that in tune with Narada Maharshi’s advice, Rugmini followed the fast following Sree Parvati, to become Lord Krishna’s bride.
In accordance with Narada’s advice, Gopikas in Vrindavanam also opted for Karthiyayani fast during Hemantha season. They longed to have Lord Krishna as their husband, made an idol of Goddess Karthiyayani and prayed for a mandala season, which yielded result in merging of their spirits and souls into the Lord on the moon lit night of Thiruvathira. Lord joined them in rasakreeda and with Lord as the centre; they danced on the banks of river Yamuna. Gopikas attained eternal bliss …
For this, Gopikas took early baths in river Kalindhi, during the Saraswathi yama; singing hymns and tapping on the water, splashing rhythmically; praising the Lord. They conducted worship with wild flowers, submitted “naivedhyam” with cooked tubers in jaggery, swinging and fasting …All these rituals have later become the customs of Thiruvathira.
Long ago during the Mahakalakalpa, there was a severe war between Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu. Lord Shiva took an immobile form and from that emerged a Shiva Linga. As per advice of Lord Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu paid homage to this Linga with Omkaram and Panchakshari (OM NAMASHIVAYA). The Lord Mahadeva emerged and blessed them both. From then, devotees who worship the Lord on this Thiruvathira day receive immense blessings that are most precious. It is remarkable than what is received by worshipping for over a year, says Shivapurana.
Whatever might be the true legend; Thiruvathira is holy day and devotees worship Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi, submitting them to seek their blessings.
Treasure of Tradition:
Customs are based on age-old traditions.
The festival of Thiruvathira is extremely popular amongst womenfolk and more specifically among the women of Nair and Namboothiri Community of Gods’ own country, Kerala.
Festivities of Thiruvathira begin a week before, commencing from Aswathi asterism.
The second last day is Rohini. On this day, fasting is done for overall welfare of the family and wellbeing of all members. The previous day is Makayiram. On this day, mothers observe fast for the well-being of their children. Married women who have difficulties in conceiving fast and spent this day praying Lord. They long for blessings in the form of a kid of their own.
On Ardra day, last day of the festive week, wives fast for the welfare of their husband. This encompasses prayers for his life longevity, togetherness, quick reunions or fame of their beloved husband; as the case may be, which would ensure simultaneously long and happy married life. This fast is called the King of fasts in Hindu Mythology.
However, there is no compulsion on any of these fasting whatsoever.
Generally, women wake up by 4am during the winter season, take their bath and visit nearest Shiva Shrine, if possible before sunrise. This is Ardra Darshan.
Adherence to Thiruvathira ensures husbands’ well being and in turn, helps maintain marital bliss and conjugal harmony. Even in present days, young and educated girls follow these traditions wholeheartedly as evidenced by the crowd of devotees in Shiva temples early on this day morning…
Unmarried girls fast on Thiruvathira aspiring for a compatible groom in future. The first Thiruvathira following the marriage of a girl is Poothiruvathira. Celebrations on this occasion are on a grand scale. All members of the family gather at this house for the annual, rather once in a lifetime event of the newly weds.
Celebration in Changing Times:
The simplest version of Thiruvathira celebrated nowadays consists of wearing fresh two-piece attire called “settu mundu” and culinary delicacies unique for the day. Although Ardra Darshan before sunshine is not as easy as in early days, the day definitely starts with prayers to Lord Shiva and Sree Parvathi and a visit to the nearby temple in the early sunlit hours.
Breakfast includes an arrowroot pudding (koova payasam) and steamed nendran banana.
Arrowroot is botanically Maranta arundinceae. It is highly nutritious and has medicinal uses. It is a common home remedy for dysentery and aids easy recovery of convalescing patients, when used otherwise.
Tender coconuts, milk and fruits enrich the unique menu for the day.
Lunch is mostly porridge in wheat or sooji rawa or chama (Panicum milletium) with coconut milk; and special Thiruvathira “puzhuku”. This is made with tubers and pulses, which have different types of tubers, corms and rhizomes ranging from tapioca, elephant foot yam, dioscorea, coleus, lesser yams etc along with pulses like green gram or cowpea and raw plantain.
Most of these tubers contain adequate sources of easily digestible starch and hence might have a significant role in natural health therapy for the winter season, as karkidaka kanji and dasapushpam soup for health care and rejuvenation during the rainy season.
Avoiding all items made with rice, from the rise of Ardra star for the succeeding 60 nazika is the specialty.
Ettangadi refers to an item prepared especially in the evenings of Makayiram. This indicates initiation of Thiruvathira noyambu.
This consists of eight different tubers. In the courtyard, on clean land, painted and purified with cow dung slurry, fire is prepared, for roasting tubers. It is specially prepared on occasions of Poothiruvathira. It reminds one of the campfires in a misty moonlit, winter night.
The roasted tubers are peeled, cut into small bits and mixed with kalkanda (sugar crystals), honey, ghee, banana bits, nuts, raisins, and sometimes with cooked pulses or dal and scraped coconut.
The eldest woman in the family performs the rituals related to ettangadi. The final mix, after offering to Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesha and Sree Parvathi, is shared by all ladies who are into the fast.
The probable ingredients used for “ettangadi chudal” is tabulated (table 1).
This refers to gathering and wearing a combination of 10 auspicious flowers, which is together called dasapushpam. This was considered holy in earlier times. During those days, these plants were available in plenty in most homesteads of Kerala. Associated myth is tabulated (TABLE 2).
Along with these flowers, adaikamaniyan (Sphaeranthus indicus) and Neelakoduveli (Plumbago capensis),are also used. These are collected earlier by the men in the household and kept hidden beneath a tree in the courtyard. Women seek them out. The eldest member distributes it, to all, to adorn their hairs to pacify and seek blessings of devas noted in the table.
It is believed that Sree Parvati, paid homage to Lord Shiva during her penance using flowers of Neelakoduveli which blooms at midnight; along with leaves of Konna (Cassia spp) and Eruku(Calotropis spp).
In olden days, women would visit rivers or nearby ponds, in early hours, in groups along with a lighted lamp and Astamangalya. They stand in the cold waters up to their navel and splash water singing hymns. They clap their hands in such a way that they take water in the armpits with their left hand and beat on it with their right hand. How many times one claps depends on the age of their better half. It is in progression, one additional to their present age, seeking blessings for another year of conjugal bliss and harmony. They then take bath, worshiping and awakening Goddess Ganga. This is done on severe winter mornings, before sunrise. It is popularly called “thudichukuli”.
Back home, they sit facing east and light lamps. Now the eldest Sumangali apply anjukuri , above the bhindi on every forehead. This consists of different colours. Red is with sindooram (saffron), chandhanam(sandal paste), yellow with manjal(turmeric), black with the oiled charcoal from Pooja (ganapathy homa kootu) and green made from paste of mukooti leaves(Biophytum).
They also join in the evenings in a nearby courtyard and dance rhythmically in circles either with a Shiva Linga or with a well-lit brass lamp at the centre. This form of dance, called thiruvathirakali, is now highly restricted to few rural scenarios, big joint families and mostly to dance competitions in Youth Festivals and Onam celebrations.
Songs on this occasion are a beautiful blend of histories and legends.
The most popular songs are:
Dhanu masathil thiruvathira,
bhagavan thante thirunalalo
(Sung during thudichukuli)
Onnaanaam mathilakath onnundu pol poothilanji
poothilanji pooparikan poranundo thozhimare..
(Sung during search for pathirapoo)
The wealth of Thiruvathira songs is a rich one. The content of songs varied from adoration of Lord Krishna, to ragas that facilitate rain by music or make land fertile and others in praise of Lord Shiva and Sree Parvathi. Mangalageethy is the most significant of the exhaustive list.
Some of these songs were compiled by different teams and are available as music CDs for purchase, over years.
Reviving the rituals:
There may have regional and local differences in the way this festival is celebrated. For example, in Calicut, even in the city limits of Kozhikode; pulikali forms commonly called “porattu” still exist which adds colour to the otherwise simple festival. Folk forms dressed in paint with drums, lantern and music visits every household and performs a song in their courtyard during the evening hours. In some areas, many teams of performers entertain the devotees. This helps surpass sleepless nights in praise and glory for Lord Shiva.
Many of the rituals closely observed by women folk withered away with the collapse of the joint family system. However, social groups and residential associations are trying to revitalize the celebration in possible manner. Merging modern women with erstwhile customs and traditions, to help reinstate the nostalgic mood associated with Thiruvathira in earnest efforts to hold on to our vanishing treasures of customs, rituals and beliefs to uphold our culture and traditions for posterity.
|TABLE I: ETTANGADI
In cities, raw nendran fruits (Musa spp), potato (Solanum tuberosum) or sweet potato (Ipomoea batatus) or carrots (Daucus carota) are also used to accomplish fulfillment of the criteria of eight tubers when any of the usual component is unavailable.
|TABLE 2: DASAPUSHPAM IN PATHIRAPOOCHOODAL
|Recipe for Arrowroot Pudding
Arrow root flour – 100 grams
Jaggery – 100 to 150 grams
Scraped coconut – 1-2 tbsp.
Cashew nuts – 10nuts
Dates -5-6 numbers.
Nendran Banana – 1/3 to ½ of a medium size banana
Ghee – 2 tbsp
Initially mix flour with a glass of plain water and keep aside for sometime, until the flour settles. Now drain off the water, along with impurities, if any.
Dissolve jaggery in another glass of water and sieve to remove sand, stone, and impurities, if any.
Powder the cardamom pods and keep aside.
Cut the cashew nuts into small bits and fry in a little ghee.
Cut dates and half of a small nendran banana into small bits and keep aside.
Mix the flour, dissolved jaggery, dates, banana and cardamom in a flat vessel and cook on low fire, stirring continuously. As the mix becomes thick in consistency, remove from flame. Transfer contents into a preferable mould of desired shape, rubbed with adequate ghee and decorate with the fried nuts. Leave to set for sometime. Cut as desired into beautiful shapes and serve fresh. An excellent nutritious dish, a real delicacy, highly in demand amidst kids.
Alternately, the pudding can be prepared by mixing the arrowroot powder with enough water to make a thin batter. Syrup can be prepared from the jaggery by melting it with adequate water and boiling to thread like consistency. This can then be gradually mixed with the arrowroot batter. Keep stirring in medium heat until it becomes semi-solid. Stir in the coconut and other ingredients and mix well. Keep on slow fire for few more minutes, top it with ghee; or use coconut milk, mix, and remove from fire.
Authors recent work: The Story Of Water
– By Alisha for CalicutNet.com